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The Iron Man (novel) facts for kids

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For novels with similar titles, see Ironman (disambiguation) § Literature.
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The Iron Man
The Iron Man: cover of first edition by Adamson
Adamson cover of first edition
Author Ted Hughes
Illustrator George Adamson (first)
Andrew Davidson (1985)
Country United Kingdom
Genre Science fiction
Published 1968 (Faber and Faber, UK)
1968 (Harper & Row, US)
1985 (Faber and Faber, int'l)
1999 (Knopf, 30th Anniv. Ed.)
Media type Print
Pages 59 pp.
Followed by The Iron Woman 

The Iron Man: A Children's Story in Five Nights is a 1968 science fiction novel by British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, first published by Faber and Faber in the UK with illustrations by George Adamson. Described by some as a modern fairy tale, it describes the unexpected arrival in England of a giant "metal man" of unknown origin who rains destruction on the countryside by eating industrial farm equipment, before befriending a small boy and defending the world from a dragon from outer space. Expanding the narrative beyond a criticism of warfare and inter-human conflict, Hughes later wrote a sequel, The Iron Woman (1993), describing retribution based on environmental themes related to pollution.

The first North American edition was also published in 1968, by Harper & Row with illustrations by Robert Nadler. Its main title was changed to The Iron Giant, and internal mentions of the metal man changed to iron giant, to avoid confusion with the Marvel Comics character Iron Man. American editions have continued the practice, as Iron Man has become a multimedia franchise.

Faber and Faber published a new edition in 1985 with illustrations by Andrew Davidson, for which Hughes and Davidson won the Kurt Maschler Award, or the Emils. From 1982 to 1999 that award recognised one British "work of imagination for children, in which text and illustration are integrated so that each enhances and balances the other." The 1985 Davidson edition was published in Britain and America (retaining 'giant') and there were re-issues with the Davidson illustrations, including some with other cover artists. Yet the novel has been re-illustrated by at least two others, Dirk Zimmer and Laura Carlin (current, Walker Books). Pete Townshend produced a musical concept album based on the novel in 1989, while Brad Bird directed a critically acclaimed animated film adaptation in 1999.

In August 2019 an updated illustrated version was released in the UK with new illustrations from artist Chris Mould.


The Iron Man arrives seemingly from nowhere, and his appearance is described in detail. To survive, he feeds on local farm equipment. When the farm hands discover their destroyed tractors and diggers, a trap is set consisting of a covered pit on which a red lorry is set as bait.


In 1999, Warner Bros. released an animated film using the novel as a basis, entitled The Iron Giant, directed by Brad Bird and co-produced by Pete Townshend.

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